Addressing the world’s most pressing needs through sustainable solutions is one of the greatest challenges human beings currently face as a collective species. Drop Access, a Kenyan-based women and youth-led NGO that legally incorporated in 2019, works to spark change in rural and grassroots communities by improving access to renewable energy and educational programs. The co-founder and CEO of Drop Access Norah Magero and her team conceptualize and manufacture many of the organization’s solutions in-house. Here is some information about the sustainable solutions that Drop Access is bringing to Kenya.
Challenges with Medical Access
Across Southeast Kenya, rural areas like Kamboo and Yindilani are positioned far from the nearest town and electricity grid, with poor roads for connection. Without a steady supply of electricity, the health facilities across these areas face limits in the services providable, and as such, many residents struggle to meet their basic medical needs.
Media outlet Nigeria Health Watch reported in late 2022 an instance where a facility could not offer maternity services due to the inability to store oxytocin, a peptide hormone administered during labor, because of the low temperatures the drug requires in storage and the lack of cold storage facilities on the premises.
This inadequacy was extremely significant during the COVID-19 pandemic when immunization efforts fell below average as facilities could not store enough vaccines to administer to the population on demand. According to data from the World Bank, in 2019, Kenya spent 4.59% of its GDP on health services, a significant decline from 6.12%, not even a decade earlier in 2010, perhaps offering a reason why medical facilities across rural areas of the country endure shortages and inadequacies.
In response to these challenges, Magero, through Drop Access, tested the VacciBox, a solar-powered portable fridge. With solar panels on the lid, one can mount the box on a motorcycle, bike or boat for transport while the panels harness solar power along the journey. The design includes an integrated digital feature, gathering data and tracking the supply and dispensation of the contents stored, ensuring more informed and effective immunization efforts.
Drop Access ran a pilot project with Usungu Dispensary, a fully off-grid health facility in Makueni County. Initially, the health facility ran biweekly vaccine transports to the dispensary and returned the supplies to the county hospital at the end of the day. The VacciBox has enabled the dispensary to store more than 1,000 vaccines onsite, a development associated with an exceptional growth of 45% in immunization rates across the area.
The remote struggle extends beyond the lack of access to basic health care resources. Initially, Magero and the team modeled the VacciBox in response to farmers’ concerns regarding supply chain issues. The prototype emerged to enable more reliable transport of perishable goods, particularly milk, with the cold storage allowing for longer travel periods without the milk spoiling. Each VacciBox can carry up to 50 liters of product, preventing food waste in crucial areas and ensuring an overall more efficient supply chain system that offers safer delivery and consumption of food.
In August 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a $123.7 million appeal to tackle the food crisis in the greater Horn of Africa. Seven nations in the region, including Kenya, are experiencing food insecurity on an unprecedented scale.
As of June 2022, more than 37 million people are experiencing levels of food insecurity so severe that people are forgoing essential livelihood assets and turning to other crisis-coping strategies to feed their families as malnutrition is prevalent. Low income, high prices as a result of shortages, drought and supply chain issues contribute to these crisis levels of hunger.
Drop Access hosts workshops to develop and enhance agricultural practices across Kenya. Extremely impactful work, targeting what PricewaterhouseCoopers calls the “the backbone of Kenya’s economy,” agriculture makes up 80% of Kenya’s workforce. Through educational programs informing farmers on innovative and sustainable solutions, the aim is to sustainably increase production levels. The organization aims to educate and inform agricultural workers on the technological developments in the sector and how best to integrate these into their practices.
Education initiatives extend beyond agricultural training and innovation. Drop Access aims to provide renewable energy to marginalized and remote communities through hosted training sessions outlining solar-powered systems, where community members can learn how to use readily available and locally sourced materials to build personal solar-powered systems.
Drop Access provides further guidance and technical support to institutions such as schools, health care clinics and community centers to install such systems. The success of the initiatives has seen increased outreach by Drop Access, which now targets individuals and households to help them integrate renewable energy sources into their day-to-day lives. As an organization, Drop Access’ efforts and initiatives are broad, yet all draw lifeblood from a common denominator: sustainability.
The work of Drop Access and Magero represents far more than an NGO offering environmentally conscious solutions to the most pressing problems communities can face. The efforts toward sustainable solutions are a testament to the environmental awareness of the younger generation and their commitment to playing a role in addressing global issues through innovation.
– Bojan Ivancic